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Israeli airstrike blamed for death of 4,000 frozen embryos

Destruction in Gaza City

- | AFP

John Burger - published on 04/18/24

IVF clinic could not replenish needed liquid nitrogen in time.

Israel’s military action to root out Hamas from the Gaza Strip has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.

Add to that another 4,000.

That’s the number of frozen embryos stored in a Gaza IVF clinic who apparently died as a result of an Israeli shelling.

Reuters reported Wednesday that amid the shelling of Gaza City in December, one explosion blasted the lid off five liquid nitrogen tanks stored at Gaza’s largest fertility clinic. The temperature of the nitrogen in the tanks needed to be kept below -180 degrees Celsius. The military activity in the area prevented clinic officials from getting there and checking on the tanks.

“As the ultra-cold liquid evaporated, the temperature inside the tanks rose, destroying more than 4,000 embryos plus 1,000 more specimens of sperm and unfertilized eggs stored at Gaza City’s Al Basma IVF center,” Reuters reported.

“We know deeply what these 5,000 lives, or potential lives, meant for the parents, either for the future or for the past,” said Bahaeldeen Ghalayini, 73, a Cambridge-trained obstetrician and gynecologist who established the clinic in 1997.

“All these lives”

After Israel began responding to Hamas’ October 7 attack in the south of the country, Ghalayini closed his clinic. His chief embryologist, Mohammed Ajjour, managed to procure one delivery of liquid nitrogen to maintain the freezing temperature in the tanks, but Israel cut electricity and fuel to Gaza, and most nitrogen suppliers closed.

“At the end of October, Israeli tanks rolled into Gaza and soldiers closed in on the streets around the IVF center,” Reuters said. “It became too dangerous for Ajjour to check the tanks.”

In April, when clinic officials were able to return, they found the lids of the embryo storage tanks open. “Still visible at the bottom of one of the tanks, a basket was filled with tiny color-coded straws containing the ruined microscopic embryos,” Reuters described.

Said Ghalayini, “All these lives were killed or taken away: 5,000 lives in one shell.”

To understand the difference between the 4,000 embryos and the other 1,000 specimens, see the article below on IVF.

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